Affiliative Leadership Style Advantages, Disadvantages and Characteristics

Affiliative leadership is focused on a few key characteristics. Above anything else, these leaders are honest to a fault. Their employer and their direct reports become a direct reflection of themselves. They see themselves as a beacon of moral guidance that everyone can follow.

There are strong communication skills present in the affiliative leader as well. They clearly describe what needs to get done, then succinctly summarize the steps required to achieve success. Unlike other leaders, the affiliative leader puts their primary focus on positive feedback to create success.

An affiliative leader is also confident, assuring everyone that a setback is something everyone encounters. They maintain a positive attitude, embrace their creativity, and are committed to producing consistent results that improve the quality of the working environment for everyone.

With these characteristics, the key advantages and disadvantages of affiliative leadership begin to appear.

List of the Advantages of Affiliative Leadership

1. Feedback is a critical component of the workplace environment.
Affiliative leaders are always willing to provide some type of positive feedback to their direct reports. These leaders are quick to spot the efforts of their team, especially if someone has chosen to go above and beyond the scope of their responsibilities. They are also quick to offer some type of reward as part of the feedback process, which creates high morale levels.

2. These leaders resolve conflicts quickly.
Affiliative leaders hate conflict. They are proactive about reading the relationships between their direct reports. These leaders step-in quickly to begin repairing the relationships that can sometimes fray when working together. They are very effective at finding unique solutions to problems, making it possible for their team to maximize their productivity in every given situation.

3. The wellbeing of the employee becomes a top priority.
Affiliative leaders want to make sure that their direct reports find work to be a positive experience. They work hard to create harmony within the workplace. By making sure that people feel appreciated for what they do on a regular basis, these leaders help everyone know that their contributions are valued. That added sense of value helps to contribute to higher levels of productivity over time.

4. There are reduces levels of stress present with affiliative leadership.
Career Builder found in 2014 that 65% of employees felt under-valued in their role at work. In that same survey, they discovered that 54% of people stayed in their job because they liked their co-workers. With an affiliative leader at the helm, employers are more likely to experience the latter outcome over the former one. That is because people who work for an affiliative leader feel welcome at work. They feel valued for what they contribute. That makes them feel happier, which is a natural stress reducer.

5. This leadership style can help people recover from difficult incidents.
There can be difficult incidents at work which make it difficult to stay focused on the job. Perhaps a worker was injured or killed while they were performing job duties, for example, or someone on the team is going through difficult personal circumstances. With an affiliative leader guiding the team, everyone finds it easier to recover from the incident which occurred because there is such a positive presence encouraging them each day.

List of the Disadvantages of Affiliative Leadership

1. Affiliative leaders tend to avoid conflict.
A supervisor practicing this leadership style may be quick to work on repairing the relationships between team members if a conflict occurs. These leaders tend to stay away from dealing with conflicts that they may be asked to create, however, because they focus on relationship-building within their team. If a team member is under-performing, the affiliative leader is likely to ignore the performance.

2. It can reduce team productivity levels.
An affiliative leader relies on the personal integrity and self-discipline of each individual team member to maximize productivity levels. If these leaders allow an under-performing team member to go unchecked, then other members of the team may choose to take advantage of that situation. If a mediocre performance is good enough, then why work harder to achieve more? Productivity levels will plummet when these leaders avoid conflict.

3. This leadership style struggles with complex problems in the workplace.
An affiliative leader tends to offer positive feedback only when working with their direct reports. Because they eliminate the negative or constructive feedback from consideration, it is possible to lead workers down the wrong path without realizing it. There are times when a worker needs to stop doing what they are doing. If the affiliative leader can’t find a positive spin to make that happen, then it isn’t going to happen.

4. Affiliative leaders can create an attitude of complacency.
When people are surrounded by positive feedback all the time, it can make them think that they’ve reached the epitome of skill and success in their field. That feeling can cause them to stop the development process. Complacency is a common issue found in people who report to leaders practicing the affiliative style of leadership. Over time, even skilled workers can become unskilled because they have failed to keep up with modern practices and techniques.

5. These leaders can sometimes lose sight of the vision.
Affiliative leaders are often focused on the welfare of their direct reports. That positive focus contributes to the overall vision and mission of the organization. That focus can also become the primary element of their job responsibilities each day. When these leaders are focused on their direct reports and their welfare more than their responsibilities to the company, then it becomes easier to lose sight of the overall mission. They stop looking at the big picture to solve the problems they see forming within their team.

6. Affiliative leaders avoid scenarios that make them feel uncomfortable.
An affiliative leader focuses on their own feelings too. They like to feel happy and positive about what they do every day at work. If there is a scenario that makes them feel uncomfortable, then they may do their best to avoid it altogether. There is a hesitance with this leadership style to confront difficult situations in a head-on manner. A leader might try to delegate the responsibility, ignore it to hope it goes away, or wait as long as possible before doing something about the situation.

The advantages and disadvantages of the affiliative leadership styles show us that a positive workplace environment is possible. People can make needed changes when positive feedback is given to them. Unless there is some adaptation, however, the characteristics of affiliative leadership can also create complacency, lower productivity, and resistance to change over time.

Author Biography
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.